After putting libraries on hold during the recession, Wake County is getting back to its plans to build new libraries and renovate existing buildings.
During a work session Monday, County Commissioners reviewed plans for the library system. This year’s general budget includes money for adding five staff members and restoring library hours.
The county’s five-year Capital Improvement Program also includes $44.7 million for construction and renovations.
In order to figure out if the county’s priorities are still the same, county staff recently reviewed how things have changed since the last library bond was passed.
Library bonds were approved in 2003 and 2007. Only one project — the Northeast Regional Library in Wakefield — remains from the 2003 bond. Construction of that project, previously estimated at $9.5 million, is scheduled to begin in 2014.
Only a few of the renovations slated for the 2007 bond have been completed and none of the new building construction has occurred.
Library Projects Listed in the Capital Improvement Plan
• Northeast Regional (will begin this fiscal year)
• Fuquay-Varina Expansion/Relocation
• Wake Forest Expansion
• Middle Creek
• Cary Expansion/Relocation
• North Hills
Community Services Director Frank Cope said those projects are still the projects the county should be working on next.
Because there are no national guidelines to help municipalities locate new libraries, staff had to come up with its own metric based on market usage and population growth, with emphasis on projects from the 2007 bond.
Staff also considered drive time. While all Wake County residents have access to one of 20 libraries, some locations are more convenient than others.
Using data collected from library goers, staff found that most residents have a library within about 10 minutes from their homes. All residents have a library within a 16-minute drive.
“Everybody loves a library,” said Commission Chair Joe Bryan. “If you don’t have a library you want a library.”
But, with limited funds, Bryan said the county needs to prioritize its projects.
One town that wants a library is Rolesville, the only town in the county without its own.
Much like the rest of county, Rolesville’s population has grown, a sign town leaders warrants a new branch.
Despite a population uptick in the northwestern Wake town, Cope said Rolesville doesn’t meet any of the criteria standards. But, if Rolesville had the same population in 2006 as it does now, Cope said that it’s likely a project would have been included in the bond package.
Commissioners also discussed the Express Library on Fayetteville Street, also known as ELF.
The small library, located in the county building next to the courthouse, caters to residents who work downtown. The branch is only open during regular business hours. The library offers a limited selection of books and no programming.
Considering its size, Cope said the library has similar usage to that of Wendell’s library.
The express library wasn’t included in staff’s evaluation because it is considered a specialty library.
Bryan said that while some areas, such as Rolesville, are lacking libraries, downtown Raleigh residents and workers have access to multiple libraries within the 10-minute drive, including the Cameron Village Regional Library.
Similar libraries don’t exist in any other job-generating area, like Research Triangle Park.
Bryan said he doesn’t see the Commission making any changes, but wanted to acknowledge that the express library is an additional service that does come with a cost.
The library, he said, is part of the fabric of downtown and harkens back to the time where there was only one central library located in a city’s business district.
Commissions made no decisions about the priority list.